A complaint that a provider is in breach of one or more sections of the Codes shall, in the first instance, be raised directly with the provider concerned. If that complaint cannot be resolved within a maximum of four weeks of it being raised with the provider, then it will automatically be escalated to a 'formal' complaint

If tenants (or their representative) do not know to whom the complaint should be addressed, they should contact the National Codes. If the complaint cannot be resolved in this way, tenants (or their representative) may lodge a formal complaint under the Complaints Procedure. Such complaints shall be made in writing (including email) to the National Codes.

The deadline for making a complaint is limited to six months after the end of the letting agreement.

Once a formal complaint has been received the accommodation provider will be written to and informed of the complaint; they will then have 14 working days in which to respond. Generally, it is hoped that reporting a complaint to a provider who has signed a Code voluntarily will result in that provider taking any necessary remedial action immediately.

A copy of the accommodation provider's response will be sent to the complainant(s).  If the provider and complainant(s) cannot agree, or resolve the complaint at this stage, the National Codes Administrator will refer the matter to the Tribunal.

Where an accommodation provider and person/s making the complaint cannot agree as to whether a breach of the relevant Code has occurred, a member of the National Codes' verification team may be asked to visit the development to make an assessment of the situation. In these cases whoever makes the inspection will prepare a report on what they found and this will be available for any subsequent considerations relating to membership.


Chair’s and Vice-Chairs’ action

The Tribunal is the place of final resort for serious disputes. The full Tribunal sits only when it is required by the seriousness of a case (for instance where there are health and safety implications or allegations of dishonesty).

Wherever possible, complaints unresolvable by informal means will be dealt with by a referral from the NCA to the Chair of the Tribunal for Chair's action.

In the event of a more serious complaint the Chair can decide to take action following consultation with the two Vice-Chairs, who will either rule on the complaint or decide to refer the matter to a hearing of the full Tribunal.

Any Consortium member can insist on a complaint being heard by a full Tribunal.

The Tribunal system is administered and serviced by the National Codes Administrator, who will issue a report (to be agreed with the Chair) after each hearing in the format determined by the Consortium.

Process and membership
Tribunal hearings are normally held in the relevant town/city that the development is situated in.

The Tribunal and parties to the dispute will follow procedures determined by the Consortium and made public on the web.

The Tribunal comprises:

  • the Chair
  • two Vice-Chairs – one nominated by providers and one by NUS
  • a representative from each of the three members of the Consortium
  • three representatives from the owner community (selected by the CoM)
  • one person nominated by the relevant local authority's environmental health department (where the complaint originated from)
  • one person nominated by the relevant local students' union (where the complaint originated from)
  • one person nominated by the relevant education institution (where the complaint originated from excepting that the complaint is not about that body).

The current membership is:

John Martin (barrister)

Keith White - CRM
Hillary Gyebi-Ababio - NUS

Three representatives from the Consortium
ANUK - Vacancy
NUS - Rory Hughes
Unipol - Nikki Verity

Three representatives from the owner community

Jane Crouch - Fresh Student Living
Allan Hilton - Cass and Claredale
Paul Rowlinson - IQ Student Accommodation

The person nominated by the appropriate local authority's environmental health department, the local students' union and the local education institution are nominated from where the complaint originates from, before the Tribunal hearing takes place.

The Consortium can remove any Tribunal member at any time.

Signing the Codes of Standards and public accountability
Adoption of the ANUK/Unipol Codes by a provider is voluntary. Signatories to a Code who fail to comply with its provisions risk this fact being made known to prospective tenants. Repeated breaches of the terms of a Code are formally displayed to prospective tenants. This may include publication.

Details of any complaints that are sustained by the Tribunal are made available for public view on the National Codes website. Results from the self-assessment and verification process which identify significant non-compliance, or a warning or temporary suspension given by the Audit Panel are also placed in the public domain.

Specialist Arrangements
If a complaint is referred to the Chair of the Tribunal and they decide that it should be heard by the Full Tribunal, no representative from the provider concerned will be eligible for membership of the Tribunal dealing with that particular complaint.

The Full Tribunal

At least one member present must be a student (or a member of a student representative organisation) and the quorum shall be seven.

Providers and tenants involved in the case before the Tribunal are invited to attend. If the complainant and the respondent have difficulty attending the same meeting, every effort will be made, where possible, to allow each party a separate hearing before the Tribunal.

No legal representatives are allowed at the Tribunal for either owner or tenant.  Each party is entitled to being accompanied or represented by a lay person.

Time limits on convening hearings
Tribunal hearings must be heard within three months of the Tribunal procedure being triggered, but preferably no longer than one month after the trigger. If either the provider or the complainant cannot attend within three months then the hearing will take place in the absence of that party.

Potential conflicts of interest
Any member of the Tribunal with a potential conflict of interest in a case before the Tribunal is required to declare it before the case is heard. The Tribunal shall decide whether that member should take part in that appeal hearing or not. In the event of a tie the Chair shall have a casting vote.

Decision-making powers 
The Tribunal can make one of four decisions once it has complted the process of considering a complaint. It can decide to uphold or reject a complaint, it can request additional information and refer the matter back to the Tribunal at a later date, or it can make recommendations to other parties - such as relevant local housing authorities and education institutions. In the event that a complaint from a student is deemed by the Tribunal to be malicious, a referral is likely yo be made to the student's education institution with a recommendation for formal disciplinary proceedings.

At present the Tribunal can make one of seven decisions, once it has completed the process of considering a complaint. It can:

  • reject the complaint 
  • issue a warning letter
  • publish the failure of a member to meet standards set within the appropriate Code
  • decide that a further compliance check is undertaken or conditions are attached to continued membership
  • suspend a building or buildings by an existing member from the relevant Code for a specified period of time (not to exceed 52 weeks)
  • suspend a member for a specified time
  • expel the member from the relevant Code

All upheld complaints, suspensions and expulsions are published on the National Codes website.

The Tribunal is not empowered to make any monetary awards, although certain clauses in the Codes relating to building works carry financial obligations to tenants. The primary aim of the complaints procedures is to hold members who have voluntarily signed-up to the requirements of the Codes to account should they be found not to have met with the standards as set in those Codes. Where the aim of those bringing a complaint is to seek compensation from the accommodation provider, this should be made apparent within the complaint, and the complainant should be aware that such an outcome may not be possible.

Any decision of the Tribunal will be confirmed in writing.

The decision of the Tribunal is final.

Although any of these bodies may review an earlier decision in the light of additional information there is no appeals system.

The Tribunal Chair

The Tribunal Chair is appointed by the Consortium (with a remuneration to be agreed by them) together with two Vice-Chairs who are appointed by the CoM. All serve for three years. The Chair of the Tribunal can only be removed following dismissal by the Consortium. Other members can be removed by the CoM with a two-thirds majority or by the Consortium

The Tribunal meets annually for training purposes. At that meeting members will receive a report from the Chair of the Tribunal on any cases where Chair's action has been taken during that year, for informal discussion and comment by the Tribunal.

Relationship between the Audit Panel and Tribunal
All decisions concerning the removal of membership from either of the Codes are matters for either the Audit Panel or the Tribunal to consider. Both have powers to suspend the member or individual buildings from a Code whilst the matter is considered more fully.

If a member or building is removed or suspended from membership of any Code, any decision as to when that member may be permitted to re-apply for membership will be a matter for the Tribunal. In the event that the Tribunal makes no decision or an earlier decision is extant, then the CoM will decide this.

Both bodies will receive reports on the activities of each other every time that they meet.

Role of National Codes Administrator in administering the complaints and tribunal system

The National Codes Administrator shall:

  • operate the complaints system in accordance with the procedure determined by the Consortium
  • ensure that the complaints system is properly publicised and that those wishing to make a complaint know how to do so
  • be satisfied that all complaints have been acknowledged and that responses have been received from all providers against whom a formal complaint has been lodged

Specialist arrangements
In situations where complaints are made under the Codes against either Unipol itself or involving providers who sit on the Tribunal, instead of the National Codes undertaking the initial investigation of a complaint, this role is fulfilled by the Chair of the CoM OR his or her nominee.

If the complaint is subsequently referred to the Chair of the Tribunal, and they decide that it should be subject to a hearing of the full Tribunal, then no representative from the provider concerned will be eligible for membership of the Tribunal dealing with that particular hearing.